(An interview from Judah
S. Harris' 2007 exhibit City Stories)
A few questions for Judah S.
Your new photo exhibit at The City
Reliquary in Brooklyn
is called “City Stories”. Is there any special significance to the name?
JSH: I had
trouble coming up with a name for the show. I finally decided
on this one. Of the 37 photographs on display, all but three of them
scenes. It’s really a NYC show – that was the intent, and in keeping
mission of The City Reliquary, a small neighborhood museum in
Brooklyn that’s been nice enough to host my work through the first week
Basically, the city has a lot of stories. Any place does, but if you
someone to think of a picture of New York, usually they’ll imagine the
images of tall buildings, bridges, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square
All of that’s New York, and you only see that combination in New York,
else, but I’m interested in the neighborhood or personal stories that
No tall buildings in your exhibit?
JSH: Sure there are, but not a lot.
One photo is called City from
Above Looking South. You can see a rare view of Northern
and even some distant skyscrapers of note. I took this photo from the 16th
Floor of Yeshiva University’s Belfer Hall, the tallest building in
Heights and considered the highest point in Manhattan, since the
Heights offers us the highest natural point in the city. I used to love
going up there to
see the view on all sides. You could look over to NJ, up to Yonkers, to
Bronx, and south to the city itself. I watched the Brooklyn Bridge
fireworks in May 1983 from the same window. Not the best view, but
Are you a NYC photographer?
JSH: Well, I’m based here. It’s my backyard, of sorts, though I’ve
elsewhere in the States and abroad. I have lots of NYC photographs from
many years of shooting pictures. When I use the term NYC, I’m including
five boroughs. I’m hoping to do a book. It seems there’s always room
another book, or maybe a monograph of NYC photographs, especially if it
a somewhat different viewpoint. Have to get a publisher to agree.
I guess The NY Times thought so. They published your work
JSH: Yes, the Times had a blog last
summer in the city. There were a number of featured writers commenting
subject and they used five of my NYC photographs on a rotating basis to
illustrate the page for the summer blog. It was nice exposure and I’ve
photographs of mine appear on the Op-Ed Pages over the years. The 50th
of the State of Israel was one such occasion. They ran a montage of –
guessed it, 50 photographs I’d taken in Israel, mostly in Jerusalem.
How does one get published in The NY
JSH: Basically you have to
appropriate people with your work, in this case the art director for
Pages. A good art director can match the right artist with the right
The art director knew of my NYC photographs and liked them.
About half of the photos in
“City Stories” feature people - sometimes you
show all of the person and other times only their hands or a portion of
body. Is this intentional?
JSH: I don’t think I plan it that way. I
focus on the
broader scene and then will look for the details. Sometimes I do the
though more often, I think, it’s going from wider perspective to
like to say that every photographer finds hands expressive, and of
face, and especially the eyes are very expressive. A face can convey a
hands can gesture and say something different than what the face can
some of my photographs you see the faces and can also “read” the hands.
thinking of Dominoes, a group of
Dominican men playing on the streets of Inwood. Boys Playing Chess is another real good example. Look at the
both players and look at the expression of the boy further from the
He’s resting his cheek on the palm of his hand. Is he tired,
is it contemplation? Another image shows a woman’s hands resting on
handbag, which is lying on her lap. Her hands are crossed. She’s on
and the positioning is sort of protective and possessive. Maybe I’m
much into it, but I wonder if the woman would rest her hands this way
was in the comfort of her own living room.
Since we’re discussing hands, where was the photo
“Hands, Bolts and Tire” taken?
JSH: That was down on the Lower East Side. It
afternoon and I saw a man working on his car. His hands were all
greased up and
rugged. He was changing a tire, maybe more than one. I spoke with him
though I don’t remember the details, just that I had a short
you’re putting the camera within two feet of someone, you sort of have
One of your photographs is surprising in a humorous
way: a man with white socks is reading a newspaper on his lawn. His
resting on the trunk of the tree.
JSH: The man is on his front lawn and the white socks
really stand out. It’s the key ingredient of the photograph. Maybe from
I’ll ask all my subjects to wear white socks - to insure the potency of
picture I take. Luckily they bundle them in packs of 12… I was walking
from the supermarket, actually, when I saw this scene right over the
had groceries and also my Nikon camera, since I had just finished
photo lesson. It seemed so natural, a man reading on his lawn, and yet
think of older people assuming what is here almost a youthful stance,
on the tree. In school we tell young kids not to put their feet up on
but here this older gentleman is really at home. It even seems as if he
supporting the tree, holding it up – and yet we see obvious signs of
his age including
his walking stick that rests right next to his folding lawn chair.
So it's an unexpected story of sorts?
JSH: I wasn't expecting it and that's the reason that
I stopped to take the picture. The city is full of unexpected stories
and I share some of them in this new exhibit.
Judah S. Harris is a
photographer, filmmaker, speaker and writer. His new
exhibit, City Stories, is on display at The City Reliquary from
March 22- May 7, 2007 and an opening reception with the artist will
take place on Thursday, April 12 from 7-10pm. The City Reliquary is
located at 370 Metropolitan Avenue in the Williamsburg section of
Brooklyn, and can be reached at (718) 782-4842. The museum is
open on weekends. Visit the museum
website for further information and driving or subway directions: http://cityreliquary.org.
For more information about Judah S.
Harris' work, visit http://www.judahsharris.com.